Contrary to what you might think, fostering teenagers can be less of a challenge than caring for young children. If you want to make a difference to a young person’s life, here are 5 reasons to foster a teenager today.
It’s no secret that teenagers can be a handful to manage. Tantrums. Puberty. Rebellion. They are experiencing a lot of hormonal changes while trying to find their place in the world. It’s a tough time, but for those who need foster care, they’re also likely to have significant trauma from their past, making these years incredibly difficult to navigate.
However, at Orange Grove, we’ve learned that fostering teenagers can be less of a challenge than looking after young children – who need your constant, undivided attention. Aside from a safe and secure home, young teens need a nurturing foster family that can teach them life skills, encourage greater independence and support them as they transition into adulthood. When you become a foster parent, the impact you can have on a teenage foster placement is likely to last a lifetime. So, let’s look at the 5 best reasons to foster a teenager and give them a better future.
5 reasons to foster a teenager
1. They need less physical supervision
Due to their age, teenagers tend to be much more self-sufficient. Unlike young children, teens don’t need assistance with daily tasks like eating, bathing or getting dressed. This frees up more of your time to concentrate on helping them with their education, working through any emotional issues and providing them with love, support and guidance.
For this reason, fostering teenagers can slot more smoothly into your current lifestyle, as you don’t have to supervise them at all times.
2. You can have meaningful, adult conversations
Teenagers are self-aware, observant about their surroundings and have a more solid personality than young children. They’re at an age where they’re likely to have their own opinions and are developing their own set of values. This means you can talk together about a wide range of interests and build a deep bond with the teenager in your care.
3. You get to teach them important life skills
From cooking dinner and preparing their own lunches, to learning how to put a load of washing on, you’ll play a vital role in helping them prepare for adulthood. Life skills aren’t contained to just domestic chores though. You may also need to teach them how to deal with conflict in an appropriate manner at school, or how to cope after their first romantic breakup.
4. They are fun!
Every teenager is unique, and the idea of what is fun is very subjective. But teenagers are going through a transitionary period in their life that could spark a desire to explore the world around them. Fostering teenagers instead of young children means you can do fun things as a family such as hiking, trying out new restaurants, going to football matches or indulging in retail therapy together.
5. Teenagers urgently need people like you
Unfortunately, the number of teenagers in foster care across the UK is rising. Not having the support of a stable, loving foster home means these teens stand less of a chance of a brighter future. They deserve an opportunity to grow into healthy, happy adults and follow their dreams like any other kid their age. The difference you’d make to a teenager’s life is priceless, while in turn, your life is enriched too.
1. Remember you were a teenager once
This is where empathy plays its role. We were all teenagers at one point, and chances are, we made a lot of silly mistakes too. Think back to when you were their age and try to remember your struggles, anxieties and acts of rebellion so you’re in a better position to understand where they’re coming from. Of course, any unacceptable behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated, and you’ll still need to parent them so they learn how to express themselves appropriately, but don’t be overly harsh. Teenagers in care are going through a lot, and need someone who can be sensitive as well as strong.
2. Understand they’re going through a lot of change
From intense biological changes in the body and brain to increased responsibility and bigger decisions to make, being a teenager comes with new, scary territory. This, coupled with the fact that the child in your care has already experienced disruption in their home life can make these few years extra difficult. Some crucial advice for fostering teenagers involves a bit of science, too.
The brain undergoes a lot of change during adolescence, a main one being that the amygdala (the more emotional part of the brain) takes over while the pre-frontal cortex (the part of the brain that regulates impulse control, organisation and decision-making) is developing. This means teenagers may seem over-emotional or irrational in their responses to situations and conversations. Because of this, you need to be gentle and give their feelings the same level of respect and attention as you would anybody else’s.
3. Give them space
Teenagers rarely enjoy interrogations into their private life, or other family members barging into their room unexpectedly. And for good reason. They are going through bodily changes, potentially experiencing more romantic relationships and are trying to figure themselves out. Establishing boundaries and protecting personal space is a normal part of growing up, so to build trust with your foster child, respecting their privacy will go a long way. A general rule when you’re fostering a child of any age is that you have to knock their door before entering, and teenagers will definitely appreciate this!
4. Build up their self-worth
Fostering teenagers can involve a lot of confidence building. These children have been let down by people they should have been able to trust. They could have been abused or neglected, making them feel completely unworthy of love. They could have poor self-image or struggle at school. It’s your job as a foster parent to show them they are strong, capable and worthy, and that they are not defined by their past.
5. Listen, listen and listen
The only way you can help them overcome their problems is by listening. This could be through an actual conversation where they open up to you. However, when you’re fostering teenagers, you may need to listen more closely and pick up on clues that can give insight into what's going on in their world. Have they suddenly stopped mentioning that friend from school? Do they snap back when you bring up a particular topic? Do they become withdrawn when you mention someone’s name? Sometimes, we can learn a lot in all the things a child doesn’t say.
How to foster a teenager with trauma
It’s safe to say that any teenager that comes into your care will have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), such as abuse, neglect or the death of a loved one. This type of trauma has lasting effects on a child’s emotional, social and psychological development. Anger, resentment, lack of trust in adults, engaging in risky behaviour and disrespecting authority are common manifestations of childhood trauma.
When a child transitions into adolescence, these feelings or urges may be heightened, causing them to act out. Unfortunately, this is why teens in foster care are so misunderstood. They are not naughty or bad children. They need stability, security and guidance from a loving foster family to steer them on a positive path. When you’re fostering teenagers with a troubled history, you need to empathise, stay resilient and be patient.
Healing from trauma doesn’t happen overnight, but with your support, they can recover and reach their true potential. And this is what makes fostering teenagers such a wonderful and rewarding role.
Orange Grove was founded in 1996 by two social workers who believed that building strong relationships held the key to successful fostering. By getting to know the children in our care and treating our foster families as individuals, we have the opportunity to not only find loving and supportive homes for our children but also to provide unparalleled personal support and training for our foster parents.
When you choose to foster with Orange Grove, you will receive a generous fostering allowance and multiple rewards, ongoing training and development, and around-the-clock support from social workers, family support workers and other specialists, so you’ll never be alone.
There are thousands of young people who desperately need a safe home and positive parental figures in their life.
If you’ve been inspired by these reasons to foster a teenager and want to know more, please get in touch. Our friendly fostering advisers will get back to you at a convenient time for a quick chat and to answer any questions you have.
We truly believe the outcomes of our children would not have been possible without the continued help and support of Orange Grove
Richard - Reading
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